You can personally remove 1 ton of greenhouse gas from the planet in the next year! And the best part? You don’t have to make a monumental change in your life. It’s rather simple, actually. We’ll show you how.
“How is this possible?” you might ask, and the answer is simple: start with your plate.
Did you know a single hamburger has the same impact on the planet as driving a car 3 miles? Now count all of your burgers, tacos, and steaks over the course of a year and things start to add up! But eating in a way that reduces the amount of carbon you add to the world doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian or vegan. Nope, it’s much easier than that!
What does food have to do with greenhouse gasses?
24% of the greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air and destroy delicate environments come from agriculture, forestry, and land use. Livestock alone accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the same amount as all the transportation–cars, planes, shipping–in the world.
Meat requires a lot of resources to produce. You have to make space for the crops to feed the animals and tend to the crops with fertilizers and pesticides. And, of course, use fuels for the machinery to grow, tend, and transport them. Once the food finally gets to the livestock, animals, like cows, are very good at turning it into methane–a gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The impact of livestock on the environment really starts to add up!
So, what if you don’t want to become a vegetarian?
Fear not! You can still make a huge difference and not change your diet all that much! If you consider the average American eats twice as much meat as doctors recommend 1, even reducing the amount of meat we eat a week can reduce our emissions by half! Eating for the environment doesn’t mean you have to become a full-time vegetarian or vegan.
Interested in learning more about food and the environment? This video is a part of the Climate Lab series from Vox and the University of California. They teamed up to create some great videos that shine a light on the surprising side of climate change and what we can do to combat it in some simple ways! If you want to learn more check out their website or dive into some more videos on Vox’s channel.
What works for you?
What if we thought about meat consumption the way we once thought about using single-use straws or recycling? Not having a straw or putting a can in the recycling is about as inconvenient as, say, reducing the size of the cut of meat we eat at dinner or getting a salad without meat at lunch. It’s not a huge change but it can add up!
But what if you want to do a little more?
There are a few easy ways you can start to reduce the amount of meat you eat in a day. You can go with the suggested Mediterranean diet (here’s a handy guide from the Mayo Clinic on what that looks like). Or, maybe choose just one meal a day with meat. Or, make a rule that you just eat meat when you go out. Some people, like myself, try becoming weekday vegetarians. Others go with “meatless Monday”.
There is a great calculator that the BBC helped put out that lets you take a look at some of the common foods out there and see how many kilograms of greenhouse gasses (or miles of driving) your food creates! Give it a try!
I did some quick calculations of my own about my protein consumption. Comparing an average week before I switched to being a weekday vegetarian to an average week now, I’ve reduced my annual greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2 tons!
It’s not about being perfect!
Like all the ways we can have a positive impact on the environment, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions with our food choices is about progress, not perfection. Play with different ways of reducing your meat intake. Find which one works best for you!
It can also be difficult to imagine what a meal without meat even looks like! I’ve found some great places for inspiration on easy and approachable meals are Buzzfeed’s Tasty Vegetarian, or following #VegetarianRecipes on Instagram. For a lot of the recipes, you could easily substitute a portion of seafood or chicken too!
When you start to run down the ways you can reduce your environmental impact, there are a lot of things we don’t want to change (or can’t). Knowing what we can or can’t do is important in helping us not feel overwhelmed and actually still have an impact.
So, what will you try out? Take it all as an experiment and you’ll find the right diet that works for you, your lifestyle, and the planet!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
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